As physicians it used to be that people took care of how we looked. We used to be publicly represented by organizations like the American Medical Association and the public affairs office of our local hospitals. Our quotes were carefully chosen. We all looked good and sounded good.
But the tools of publication have put us in the driver’s seat. For better or for worse, the world can see us for what we think and believe. Beyond how we look and act during a 7 minute patient encounter, we’ve got to consider how we present ourselves during the remaining 23 hours and 53 minutes. Thinking about how we look and come across in public is a new preoccupation for us. It can’t be outsourced. We’re always on.
We’ve entered the age of individual responsibility.
Beyond the vanity of our footprint, we’re individually responsible for participating and taking action where it needs to happen. It used to be that we paid dues so that people in offices with telephones and fax machines could do our hardest work. As we grow individually and build followers, readership, audiences, and trusted, we develop a collective capacity unlike anything seen before. We’re socially responsible in a new, public way. We need to individually and collectively consider how we will leverage our growing social strength.
This new role has huge implications for the traditional 20th century institutional structures that that once defined our profession. We once needed people to decide what we should say and do. Now we’re the voices organizing in different ways outside of the vertically integrated hierarchies that once contained us.
While this may seem daunting, it’s at once empowering. We’re responsible for creating the reality that people understand about us. We’re individually capable of driving change unlike never before.
Welcome to the age of individual responsibility in medicine.